TU Berlin

Quality and Usability Lab2017_12_11_Ilsar

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The AirSticks:A New Instrument for Live Electronic Percussion within an Ensemble

LOCATION:  TEL, Auditorium 3 (20th floor), Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, 10587 Berlin

: 11.12.2017, 14:15-15:00

SPEAKER: Alon Ilsar 


This research explores the design of a new gestural instrument for electronic percussionists, the AirSticks. For the purposes of this work, a gestural musical instrument is defined as one which can, through some form of motion capturing and the process of mapping on a computer, convert physical movement information into sound. The infinite ways of mapping this movement to sound is identified within as the ‘mapping problem.’ The aim of the research is to investigate different approaches to tackling this mapping problem within diverse collaborative musical situations. The method has been to use practice-based action research to develop a series of mappings of the instrument for use in dozens of distinct projects which follow on from the researcher’s own creative practice as a drummer and electronic producer.
Self-reflections of the researcher’s role as performer/designer are provided, along with observations of working closely with a computer programmer and several expert musicians, dancers and visual artists. These reflections suggest that many different approaches are needed to tackle the mapping problem, and that laying out a clear artistic goal for a project can at least get the designer through some of the more difficult decisions that need to be made. Knowledge of how the performance may look, sound and the degree of control given to the performer leads to different mapping approaches.
To enable this research, the AirSticks were designed to allow the composition, improvisation and performance of live percussive electronic music using hand and finger movements captured by gestural controllers, enabling the control of complex sound textures at the same time as allowing the performer to time and execute precise rhythmic gestures within various collaborative musical situations. A background to the field of electronic percussion in new instrument design with a focus on the use of gestural controllers is provided. The reasoning behind the choice of particular gestural controller is discussed, as are the artistic motivations behind the project. The technical and creative components of the work, including custom software and the use of off-the-shelf controllers and sensors, are also outlined.
As part of this project, more than onehundred musical situations that utilised the AirSticks were documented. These musical situations included live performances, films and recordings, some in solo form, but most with collaborating musicians, dancers and visual artists. Some video documentation is linked to within the thesis to help demonstrate the workings of the instrument and showcase the instrument within these creative projects. A detailed overview of these projects is presented here along with insights into the creative and design processes. A discussion of the different ‘things to consider’ when designing an instrument such as the AirSticks is followed by the outlining of future projects and the design criteria of future software and hardware.



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